Forest Hills Rezone Has Racial Undertones
by David Matz
Mar 17, 2009 | 14653 views | 6 6 comments | 161 161 recommendations | email to a friend | print
John Young of the Department of City Planning presents his agency’s proposal for the Cord Meyer section of Forest Hill at last week’s Community Board 6 meeting.
John Young of the Department of City Planning presents his agency’s proposal for the Cord Meyer section of Forest Hill at last week’s Community Board 6 meeting.
A clash of cultures hit home at the monthly meeting of Queens Community Board 6, which focused on the proposed rezoning of the Cord Meyer section of Forest Hills.

To some resident, the Department of City Planning's rezoning proposal was a long-awaited solution to the problem of growing house sizes in the neighborhood. To others, the proposal represents an attack indicative of a growing void in understanding the Bukharian Jewish culture thriving in this section of Queens.

The Cord Meyer-Forest Hills rezoning area is generally bounded by 66th Avenue and 67th Road to the north, Grand Central Parkway to the east, 72nd Road to the south, and 108th Street to the west

John Young, director of the Queens Department of City Planning, presented the new revisions to the current R1-2 zoning regulations in the neighborhood of single-family detached houses. Young stressed the importance of balance in the neighborhood, which was developed in the early part of the 20th century.

"What we are trying to do is create a more predictable framework, so that there will be fewer instances where there's ambiguity as there is today," he said.

The new zoning regulations will allow a 25-foot maximum on perimeter wall height – replacing the often-ambiguous city sky exposure plane currently used to determine maximum height.

The new zoning would also set a strict limit of a 35-foot maximum building height. Currently, there is no set maximum height limit on homes in the area. Front yard line-up is also another issue addressed by the new plan. Requiring houses to be lined up is the "best way," Young says, "to strengthen the character of the streetscape."

City planner Joy Tien commented that the proposed regulations will provide more predictability, but will also allow flexibility.

Passionately opposed to the new changes was Albert Dayan of the Bukharian Jewish Congress, who spoke on behalf of the new homeowners in Cord Meyer.

"We cannot fit into the homes that are proposed by the new city plan," he pleaded to the community board members.

Dayan argued that the close-knit community, traditionally with larger families consisting of not only three to five children but elderly parents as well, bought houses in Cord Meyer for the purpose of accommodating these needs.

"They [elderly parents] live with us because to us, it is a tradition," he said. "We want to grow, we want to build homes to reflect our families, and reflect our tradition, and we are asking this board to recommend not to take that away from us."

Dayan pleas were met by negative reactions and rumbling in the room.

The audience in the small room sympathized with older residents of the community. One resident, Lynn Brownstone stated to encouraging applause, "Considering that it costs about a million dollars to buy a house in the Cord Meyer section, tear it down, and put up something big enough for a family of fourteen, there might be enough money around to buy some other houses and not disturb the conformity of our neighborhood."

Several members of the Association of Old Forest Hills also spoke in support of the new zoning regulations. They believe improved regulations will maintain the character and look of the neighborhood.

After all the testimony and questions ended, the board voted almost unanimously to approve the plan. It will now go under review by the Borough President, then to the City Planning Commission, and last to the City Council for final approval.

Dayan plans to continue fighting the rezoning efforts on behalf of the Bukharian Jewish homeowners in Cord Meyer.

"We believe that the source of this change is negativity," he stated in his appeal at the meeting.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
October 05, 2009
Building new houses is ok but the amount of plants removed is very bad for the environment.

The sewers are also over burdened by water that originally went into the soil/grass/lawn surface areas. Temperature of the neighborhood also will rise. Note the average temperature in Manhattan is higher than Queens.

Transforming lawns into cement/paved ground increases environmental stresses.
August 26, 2009
Until this evening, I did not know who was building the McMansions in the Cord Meyer area. It does not matter who these people are. What matters is that they are destroying the neighborhood. The houses barely fit on the lots. They don't belong here. They did not increase the values of the older homes - the real estate boom did that.

I hope this type of construction is stopped with the re-zoning and the area is preserved. I hope to live there one day in one of those old homes.
May 31, 2009
i think that bukharians have more class than any other culture. they have goals, desires, and are always striving for more and better. If they want to build large homes, they should have the right to. This is no longer "OLD Forest Hills" this is the new forest hills and these old jealous folk should move on and deal with it.

in addition to that, it should be their right to pave cement and driveways if they want to. it is the responsibility of the city to keep the grass cut on public property, it should be the right and responsibility of homeowners to do as they please with their property when it comes to lawns and pavements.

everybody has their own likes and dislikes, but i have yet to have heard a clear and valid reason as to why these rezoning plans should even be proposed. just because it is changing the neighborhood? so what...the fact that its changing and so drastically is good for the value of our homes in forest hills. people who bought their homes 50 yrs ago for 50,000$ can now sell their homes for close to $1 million. remind me again how change is bad?
proud israeli
March 23, 2009
The culture is strong but usualy are fanatic and it is hard to understand bukharian culture.

they are not different from others but more "open" then others. I am sure bukharians are more culturize then most of the americans argueing on this not forget bukharians came 20 years ago to USA and managed to build such a community with lots of educated personal. bukharians are not the purest people but at list they respect their parents unlike most of americans i ever met.

DAVE...very nice article i liked that ...dan
Real FH
March 20, 2009
What culture? The Bukharians have no culture.
March 19, 2009
Too little too late. The area is now more McMansion than "Old Forest Hills." Why not let them build to suit their culture?

But, that should mean NOT paving over the entire lot. Grass should still be required for both general aesthetics and environmental concerns.